More on air travel to Canada

by Eszter Hargittai on August 10, 2006

Airport security Kieran wasn’t the only one traveling internationally today for the ASA meetings. It was interesting to watch the myriad of items accumulating in the bins scattered alongside the security line. There seemed to be some interesting perfumes in there (well, at least the containers looked interesting), otherwise, just a bunch of half-empty water bottles, toothpaste, shaving cream and lotion. I wondered whether they would let you take an empty water bottle in, but I decided not to test the system. The wait was longer than usual, but still not impossible (this in the Premier check-in area though). I was also curious to see whether the hotel would be ready for the numerous people showing up without toothpaste. Having forgotten French for toothpaste, I mumbled something about brushing teeth, but before I could finish the sentence, the concierge handed me a small tube. Good for them. (Yes, of course I could’ve asked in English, but what’s the fun in that?)

Montreal welcomes the ASA As for getting through passport control, I continue to be unimpressed by Canadian immigration officials. After greeting the guy with a friendly Bonsoir I was asked why I was visiting. I mentioned the sociology meetings, which was only so obvious given that even the official greeting signs at the airport had the ASA written on them and at least half my flight was sociologists. (When I assumed about the couple standing next to me a minute earlier that they were here for the ASA they asked if it was that obvious. Isn’t it?) Anyway, the passport control guy got on the offensive to push me on “what about the sociology meetings”? What about them? I’m giving some talks. I wonder if he was that combative with the Americans. (Don’t bother getting on my case about how this doesn’t sound combative. It was, perhaps you had to be there.)

In any case, the city looks neat from my 23rd floor room. I look forward to exploring it this weekend.

Three Wishes

by Harry on August 10, 2006

We recently had the dubious pleasure of watching CNN in a hotel room — Bill Schneider was analysing poll figures concerning whether America should attempt to put a stop to the fighting in Lebanon. It reminded me why I maintain a boycott of stupid news, but it also supplied me with the third of my three wishes, each prompted by recent experiences.

My first wish was prompted by hearing an old radio outside braodcast report. The reporter was watching the Crystal Palace burning to the ground. After a few minutes he said “Well, I don’t have any more useful information, so perhaps you should give some other news”. My second was prompted by hearing the music playing in The Gap when I made a rare trip, accompanying a friend.

1. I wish I could hear a contemporary reporter on TV acknowledge that he has nothing more interesting to say.

2. I wish I could walk in to a regular store and hear Roy Harper singing “I Hate the White Man” followed by Kevin Coyne singing “Lunatic” (from what I still think is his greatest album). Or just either one would do.

3. I wish I could hear an analyst of a foreign policy opinion poll on the TV say “well, that’s what the distribution of opinion is among the public. But, youo know, this is a complicated and difficult matter, about which intellectually honest people who are well informed and have given it a good deal of thought, do not know with much certainty what should be done. So, really, the opinion of the British/French/American/Whateverian public isn’t worth paying any attention to, because almost everyone who answered this poll knows virtually nothing about the issue, and has given it even less thought”.

Just once, in each case, would be brilliant.

3 wishes then; the rule is that their realisation would not materially benefit or harm anyone you care about (other than, I suppose, Roy Harper and Kevin Coyne’s estate, in my case).

Queueing for Terror

by Kieran Healy on August 10, 2006

Well, I picked a good day to be taking an international flight. At least I’m not in the UK. Next time I travel, I’ll be sure to check to see whether “John has identified any empirical regularities”: about my mode of transport and act accordingly. This is why economics is the queen of the social sciences.

Here in Tucson’s airport, people are pretty good-humored about it all. The TSA staff aren’t making any exceptions, though: while in line waiting to be screened, I saw an octogenarian in a wheelchair have her bottle of Chanel tossed in the bin.

I’m off to Montreal for the “American Sociological Association Meetings”:, which naturally are being held in Canada this year, as part of an ongoing arrangement whereby the Canadian Sociological Society will meet next year in Australia, and the American Economics Association will have their meetings run by the Indian Society of Chemical Engineers. Be on the lookout for amusing articles in the newspaper picking out papers with embarrassing titles.

Anchors and Anchorettes

by Maria on August 10, 2006

Until a couple of weeks ago, I kept my television at the bottom of a cupboard. The idea was to waste no time watching tv when I should be studying. Now I watch the news every morning instead of reading improving literature. And it is starting to drive me up the bloody wall.

Whatever channel is on, it’s always the same set up; an older man and a younger woman tag-team the reporting, switching hyperactively from screens on either side, back to each other, and on to full-screen reports. Which is bearable, if patronising. Whenever the man is talking, the woman looks at him, listens, clearly engaged, nods slightly at the right bits, matches her facial expressions to his speech. It’s almost imperceptible, a simple empathic behaviour most women do when others speak. But every bloody time the woman opens her mouth, the man stares straight ahead, completely ignoring her, and only barely acknowledges her when it’s his turn to cut in.

I know, I know. This is how conversations go, whether in a private or professional settings. I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen women colleagues cut off by men in a group conversation. The men don’t seem to even notice they do it – it’s as if they have a divine right to speak at any moment. Yet when male colleagues are in full flight, we do our ‘active listening’, and send out all those signals which we think are supportive of their right to speak, and they probably think are just weak. Because they sure as hell almost never send them back.

There are several ways to respond to being cut off and talked over. Mostly I ignore it unless he’s a repeat offender. Then, I just keep talking. It makes the point that you were already talking and aren’t about to back out of the conversation. It injects a noise level and tension into the conversation that wasn’t there before and is frankly unpleasant – which is a fair way to spread the pain around, I think. Otherwise, of course, I just turn off the telly.

The end of carry on baggage

by Matt_Bishop on August 10, 2006

Fate is turning me into Crooked Timber’s airline correspondent. One moment I’m calling for the right to use my mobile phone in flight; the next I’m forced to contemplate having no carry on luggage on my flight. I presume that will be one of the consequences of the terror plot apparently uncovered in Britain, which, if there is anything to it (which, despite initial cynicism, there may well be), strongly suggests that however much is spent on pre-screening carry on baggage, there is no way to stop terrorists collectively carrying on enough ingredients to make a bomb in flight.

I am generally a hawk on terrorism, not least as a consequence of being in NY on 9/11. I hope I will be able to congratulate the British police on good work in this instance – and that they keep up that good work. But I wish I felt more confident that this is the case.

Of course, pre-emptive action is better than cleaning up afterwards, and proving that pre-emption actually was needed is inevitably difficult. But British politicians and the police, in particular, do seem sometimes to react in an especially heavy handed way when they pre-empt. (The killing of the Brazilian electrician last summer being the most glaring example.) If they have been tracking the current plot for some time, surely they could have phased in changes in check-in and pre-screening earlier, in ways that avoided the massive disruption to flights we have seen today. I find myself wondering if today’s disruption is deliberate, to send a message – though to whom, and what it is, I’m not sure.

There is surely also a need for some genuinely independent scrutiny of the police and government action with regard to alleged terrorist plots, especially given how few of the plot-arrest headlines actually seem to result in trials. That would make me more confident that something is going on here that is more than political grandstanding and career protection.

But the bigger point today, of course, is that rumours of terrorist plots, and actual plots, are going to remain a fact of life, the authorities have a huge and difficult responsibility that I do ot envy them, and we have only started to see how living with that fact is going to effect how we all go about our daily business. Dammit.